FAIRMONT, W.Va. (WBOY) — On Wednesday, NASA Independent Verification and Validation Facility (IV&V) hosted the 20th annual NASA Kids Day. The event is a part of NASA’s ongoing efforts to get younger generations interested in science, technology engineering or math (STEM) careers. 

Throughout the two-day event, hundreds of middle school-aged kids got to fly drones, shoot rockets and get a taste of what a future in STEM could possibly look like.

Middle Schoolers at NASA kids IV&V day (WBOY Image)

“Research shows that students decide that when they’re in middle school students that they’re not going to peruse the stem field,” Josh Revels, NASA IV&V education outreach specialist said. “So, this is a way to kind of give them exposure, the opportunities that they actually probably don’t know they exist for them.”  

The event was sponsored by A3L Federal Works, a woman-owned small business based out of Fairmont. A3L provides engineering, technology, and management services to federal and state governments, civilian agencies, and commercial clients. Their hands-on booth at the event had kids build rockets out of paper and straw. The kids then shot off their paper rockets to try and land it in a hoop on the ground. The activity mimics how NASA lands rockets on other planets.  

“It’s math, it’s critical thinking, it’s trial and error. You fail once, then you succeed the next time so not to give up,” Roya Maher, founder of A3L Federal Works said.   

Kids launching paper rockets into hoops with A3L Federal Works (WBOY Image)

Another booth at the event was Engine and Airframe Solutions Worldwide which repairs aircraft and helicopters. The aircraft industry is facing a shortage of workers, according to Ed Waske of E.A.S.W, so their goal was to get the word out to the kids about their “good paying” jobs. 

“Our best employees are people from the state that want to stay here,” Waske said. “The economic impact to the state is about $1.2 billion and so the jobs are increasing … but we need people to fill positions, all positions pilot, mechanics, officer workers.” 

The event was held at the West Virginia National Guard Armory in Fairmont. Guardsmen were there showing kids basic cannon artillery with a small, kid safe cannon.  

“They can control the angle of the cannon and the pressure that we put with a bicycle pump behind the projectile, which is a tennis ball, and then we’re going to be shooting it down at a target,” Captain James Wikle of the WV National Guard said about what they were doing with the kids at their booth. “It’s literally rocket science.”  

From all of the booths, the ultimate goal was to grow the future of STEM for the nation.   

“My passion is to get kids interested in perusing a STEM field, especially females because there is such a male-dominated industry,” Maher said. “They can choose the right field and they can get great jobs, high-paying jobs, and they can contribute to our economy.” 

“We hope that they get interested and that they can have these role models explain their steps into becoming who they were and so that they can kind of see somebody that they can be,” Revels said.